May is Women’s Health Month! While focusing on your health is a year-round priority, this month is meant to learn new ways to be healthier and implement new routines focused on yourself!
A few easy steps you can take to prioritize your health in May range from scheduling regular checkups with your doctor, getting ample rest, eating healthy, finding a fitness routine that works for you, and many more. Read along as we delve into more detail on how you can make May the month you prioritize your health and use it as a jumping board for healthy habits!
Schedule Visits with Your Doctor
Scheduling regular checkups are crucial for everyone’s well-being, but women have unique health needs which make annual check-ups an integral part of a woman’s overall health. Dr. Camille Pearte, Senior Medical Director at Fidelis Care sheds light on why more women have missed their health care appointments since the pandemic began. “During the pandemic, we know that many women took on new roles and responsibilities - including working from home, homeschooling their children, and being a multi-generational family caregiver,” Pearte said. “Women have often prioritized their family’s health and wellness over their own.” But despite the increase in responsibilities, it remains vital for women to keep their yearly appointments.
Annual exams allow your physician to monitor your health from year to year so they can catch or prevent any possible issues early on. This is also a good time to discuss the appropriate screenings based on your age. While tests in your 20s will continue to be the same in your 30s and even 40s, as you get older new screenings will be required.
During these unprecedented times, ask your provider if an in-person or telehealth visit is right for you. In the meantime, check out the Fidelis Care YouTube for more inspiring information about women’s health!
Clean Up Your Eating
We all know a balanced diet and healthy eating can go a long way to aiding in our overall lifestyle. The struggle with creating healthy eating habits, however, is the plethora of various diets and trends out there that guarantee results in almost record time. While you can spend hours on end researching the latest fads a safe baseline is to resort to a clean eating lifestyle the best you can.
Clean eating focuses on avoiding processed foods and foods that are generally healthier. Shifting toward a clean eating approach has numerous benefits to your overall health and can also help your wallet as you’ll be finding yourself eating out less. Here are a few ways you can easily incorporate clean eating into your lifestyle:
Start Cooking at Home
Cooking your own meals is a great way to control what you eat and knowing exactly what you’re putting into your body. While this is a time-consuming process, we know it isn’t completely practical to cook each and every meal.
Taking the time to prepare meals ahead of time can lead to a healthier lifestyle and also save you on dining out expenses.
Opt for More Color
When it comes time to hit the grocery store, try opting for more colorful foods like vegetables and fruits. Fruits aren’t only a great option for snacking, but also provide you with natural sugars and carbohydrates that are good for your body.
Adding in a leafy salad a few times a week is a simple way to bring more greens into your life and also offer natural vitamins and minerals to your diet.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
Often times when people can’t lose weight, they blame it on their food consumption. While this may be the case, it can also be the drinks they’re consuming. Sugary drinks, cocktails, and even that creamer in your coffee can add up to plenty of calories over time and eventually weight gain.
Be smart with your drink of choice by choosing zero-calorie beverages such as water or sparkling water, ditch the sugary mixers and start drinking your coffee black or use a lower-calorie creamer like almond milk.
Find a Fitness Routine You Enjoy
As with diet fads, workout routines can be difficult to find what’s right for you but also something you can maintain and stick with over time. If you find yourself sore for days after a workout, this may be a sign your body either is not used to this type of exercise, or the routine is too strenuous.
Luckily, there are hundreds of workouts for women to discover and pick from. Finding a fitness routine and regularly exercising can help women boost their mood, maintain a healthy weight and even lead to better sleep. Exercising can also help fight off high blood pressure, anxiety, depression, and a number of other health irregularities.
Focus on Your Sleep
We sleep for nearly 33% of our lives, so making sure we are getting good sleep is important. Women need on average 7-8 hours of sleep per night and ample, quality sleep comes with a number of health benefits that extend to your waking hours. Consistently getting a good night’s rest, combined with a healthy lifestyle can help you maintain a healthy weight, reduce stress, think more clearly, and allow you to form more healthy relationships.
With how busy life is, however, we know getting ample sleep isn’t always that easy, despite knowing how important it is. If you find yourself struggling to get enough sleep, think about what you do the hour or so before bed. Do you spend a lot of time streaming shows or getting lost on social media? These are just a few factors that may be taking away from the quality of sleep you get at night. Fitness wearables like Whoop can help you dive into understanding how your body recovers and responds to certain events or activities you take part in. Understanding how your body works can help you in finding the right balance and striking the chord to quality sleep.
How can women get properly diagnosed for sleep apnea?
Fortunately, doctors are receiving better education on the prevalence of sleep apnea in women and recognizing the increased risk factors they have for developing OSA. However, with proper education for patients, women themselves can better recognize the risk factors for developing OSA, and avoid improper diagnosis.
"In addition to menopausal status and drug failure, clinicians need to be aware of the tendency to diagnose based on gender stereotypes, " Says Dr. Randazzo, "How women answer questions may mislead the clinician to assume the problem is insomnia be
cause they report how they feel when they are trying to get to sleep makes it sound like insomnia instead of sleep apenea."
Here are some symptoms and risk factors typical of women with sleep apnea.
Snoring (even light snoring).
Full or partial cessations of breathing during sleep
Excessive daytime sleepiness
General lack of energy during the day
High blood pressure that is difficult to control with medication
Frequent trips to the bathroom during the night
Disturbed sleep/waking often in the middle of the night
Women's risk for developing OSA increases as they transition through menopause. Women are three times more likely to have post-menopausal sleep apnea than pre-menopausal. Reasons for post-menopausal OSA include weight gain and unclear hormonal changes.
- Prior to menopause many women may develop upper airway resistance syndrome, wich can develop into sleep apnea after menopause.
Women with a neck circumference greater than 16 inches.
Women aged 55-70 years are 14% more likely to have severe OSA
Obese women aged 50-70 are 31% more likely to have OSA
Women are more likely to develop co-morbid conditions such as anxiety and depression than men.
The risk for developing OSA among women with poly-cystic ovarian syndrome can be as high as 70%.
Pregnancy can increase the risk of developing OSA. Untreated OSA in pregnant women can lead to complications during pregnancy including high blood pressure, enlarged heart, pulmonary blood clots, more frequent preeclampsia, neonatal intensive care unit admissions, and cesarean delivery.
Women’s Health Month is about prioritizing not only your physical but mental health as well. Taking the time to reflect on where your health stands on multiple levels can help give yourself a baseline of where you need to start, what you need to work on, and what matters are more pressing than others.
From scheduling a regular visit with your doctor, focusing on consistent, quality sleep, clean eating, and sticking to a fitness routine, you will be well on your way to enhancing your life in more ways than one.
If you believe that your sleep troubles may be due to sleep apnea rather than another sleep disorder, contact a sleep specialist and ask if a sleep study is right for you.
If you live in Alaska and would like to schedule a sleep study, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic and receive a free 10-minute phone consultation with a sleep educator. Our clinic is owned, operated, and mostly staffed by women who can help provide top quality, comprehensive care for our female patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea.